German unemployment drops unexpectedly in October

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FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2007 file photo, employees are silhouetted at the Boehringer Ingelheim pharmaceutical factory in Ingelheim, central Germany. New statistics show unemployment in Germany fell unexpectedly in October, suggesting that Europes largest economy was beginning to shake off the negative impact of the coronavirus just as the pandemic started to spread rapidly again. (AP Photo/Michael Pobst, file)

BERLIN – Unemployment in Germany fell unexpectedly in October, according to statistics released Thursday, suggesting that Europe's largest economy was beginning to shake off the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic just as confirmed cases started to rise rapidly again.

The jobless rate fell to 6.2% in October from 6.3% in September, when adjusted for seasonal developments, according to figures from the Federal Labor Agency. Economists had predicted the rate would remain unchanged.

Some 2.76 million people were out of work in Germany, 87,000 fewer than the previous month, aided by extensive use of a short-term salary support program. The number of unemployed was the lowest since April, but still 556,000 more than October2019.

In unadjusted terms, the headline figure in Germany, the unemployment rate dropped to 6% from 6.2% the month before.

Rises in unemployment in Germany and elsewhere in Europe during the pandemic have been moderate by international standards because employers are making heavy use of salary support programs, often referred to as furlough programs, that allow them to keep employees on the payroll while they await better times.

In Germany, the Labor Agency pays at least 60% of the salary of employees who are on reduced or zero hours.

The Labor Agency said that in August, the last month for which reliable data is available, the number of people receiving such payments fell sharply to 2.58 million from 3.32 million in July.

The Ifo economic think-tank said this week that, according to its calculations, the number rose back above 3 million in September and October.